Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Appellants Balubhai Patel, DTWO & E, Inc. (DTWO), and Stuart Union, LLC (Stuart Union) (collectively, appellants) have been before this court numerous times in connection with a labor dispute with a former employee, Defendant, that resulted in two California Labor Commissioner orders (ODAs) in Defendant’s favor. The instant appeal challenges a superior court order forfeiting a bond Appellants had posted in an unsuccessful attempt to challenge the ODAs, as well as a judgment against them as bond principals.   The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that the only bonds Appellants posted here were for the exact amount owed under the ODAs— not double or one and one-half times that amount. Thus, aside from the fact that, when Appellants posted the bonds, Appellants identified the bonds as undertakings related to their attempted section 98.2 appeal to the trial court, not an appeal with this court, the bonds were insufficient to stay the actions below based on the pendency of any appeal with this court. The trial court, therefore, did not lack jurisdiction based on the pendency of related appeals in this court.   Further, the court held that Appellants’ jurisdictional arguments misunderstand the relationship between bonds issued pursuant to section 98.2 and jurisdiction. The statute expressly contemplates a situation in which an attempted section 98.2 appeal has failed without there necessarily having been an adjudication on the merits or jurisdiction to hear a section 98.2 appeal, and the court is not only empowered but required to satisfy the relevant ODA from a bond posted under such circumstances. View "Patel v. Chavez" on Justia Law

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Several FVF ("the Defendant") employees filed a class action lawsuit against the Defendant alleging, among other things, that the company did not pay minimum and overtime wages. They also alleged a cause of action under the Private Attorney Generals Act ("PAGA") for civil penalties “for themselves and other current and former employees” for “labor law violations.” Defendant sought to compel arbitration based on agreements each of the employees had signed.In response, the employees claimed they did not recognize the purported arbitration agreement or the signatures on them. Moreover, the agreement presented by FVF contained unconscionable provisions. The trial court found that FVF did not prove the employees entered into a valid arbitration agreement.On appeal, the Second Appellate District affirmed, finding that, while employment agreements that compel the waiver of representative claims under the Private Attorney Generals Act are no longer generally contrary to public policy, the agreement in this case was unconscionable. View "Navas v. Fresh Venture Foods, LLC" on Justia Law

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Ramirez, a self-employed contractor, was hired by a shopping center’s tenant to remove an exterior sign after the tenant vacated its space. While searching for the sign’s electrical box, he entered a cupola on the shopping center’s roof and fell through an opening built into the cupola’s floor, sustaining serious injuries. In a suit against Kimco, which owns and operates the shopping center, the trial court granted Kimco summary judgment based on the Privette doctrine, which creates “a strong presumption under California law that a hirer of an independent contractor delegates to the contractor all responsibility for workplace safety[,] . . . mean[ing] that a hirer is typically not liable for injuries sustained by an independent contractor or its workers while on the job.”The court of appeal reversed and remanded. Kimco did not hire its tenant or Ramirez to perform the work. Kimco did not delegate its own responsibility for the roof’s condition to Ramirez through an employment relationship, as contemplated by Privette. Nor did Kimco delegate such responsibility by virtue of its landlord-tenant relationship. The court acknowledged “the strong possibility that Kimco will prevail under general principles of premises liability. “ View "Ramirez v. PK I Plaza 580 SC LP" on Justia Law

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La Vonya Price worked intermittently as a part-time substitute special education aide at the Victor Valley Unified School District (the District) before applying for a full-time position. She received an offer for a full-time position that was contingent on passing a physical exam. When she failed the physical exam for not being “medically suitable for the position,” the District rescinded the offer, terminated her as a substitute, and disqualified her from any future employment with the District. Price sued the District for retaliation and various disability-related claims, but the trial court granted summary judgment to the District. Price appealed, contending the trial court erroneously granted summary judgment to the District because there were triable issues of fact concerning all of her claims. The Court of Appeal agreed as to her first claim for disability discrimination, but disagreed as to the rest of her claims. View "Price v. Victor Valley Union High School Dist." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jane Doe was the founder and owner of a company called House of Lync, which was purchased by defendant SoftwareONE Inc. As part of the acquisition, plaintiff was offered a position with defendant as “Head Solutions Sales, Skype for Business,” which she accepted. At the time, plaintiff was 49 years old. Nine months later, defendant hosted a “National Sales Kick-off” event in Cancun, Mexico. Plaintiff attended, and felt the event was “full of outlandish behavior.” Plaintiff refused to participate, and later complained to the president of defendant’s American division. Beginning shortly after the event, defendant received complaints about plaintiff, including her “demeaning manner, withholding of important information, bullying, humiliation, and other unacceptable behaviors.” Defendant reassigned plaintiff to a new position: “Global Alliances and Practice Development Leader, Skype for Business.” About six months after plaintiff’s reassignment, Jason Cochran, defendant’s director of technical solutions told plaintiff, during an after-work event, that defendant “is a guy’s club,” plaintiff was “never going to make it” working for defendant, and called plaintiff a “bitch.” After plaintiff complained, defendant’s human resources manager investigated, “coached” Cochran, and informed plaintiff that defendant did not condone this behavior. A few months later, defendant purchased another company similar to plaintiff’s. Defendant then terminated plaintiff, citing poor performance and redundancy. Plaintiff sued defendant, alleging her firing was discriminatory and retaliatory. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing: (1) plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case for discrimination or retaliation; (2) defendant had legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for terminating plaintiff; and (3) plaintiff could not show defendant’s nondiscriminatory reasons were pretextual. The trial court granted defendant’s motion and entered judgment for defendant. In moving for a new trial, plaintiff argued, among other things, that even absent evidence of pretext, her claims could and should have survived summary judgment because she made a sufficient showing of retaliatory intent. The trial court agreed and granted plaintiff’s motion. Defendant timely appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision overturning summary judgment. View "Doe v. Software One" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Andrew Shouse was terminated from his employment as a captain of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office (RCSO, the Department, or respondent), following an administrative hearing. Findings on the record reflected petitioner engaged in improper sexual relationships with subordinates under his command, misappropriated county equipment and electronic mail for his personal use, was insubordinate in violating a direct order prohibiting him from contacting any person with whom he had had a personal relationship during the pendency of the investigation, and unbecoming conduct discrediting the Sheriff’s Department. Following an administrative appeal, the findings were sustained. Petitioner petitioned for writ of mandate seeking review of his dismissal, and, upon denial of that petition, he appealed. The sole legal issue presented was whether petitioner’s rights pursuant to the Public Safety Officer’s Bill of Rights (POBRA) were violated where the investigation into his alleged improper conduct was not completed within one year of discovery. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Shouse v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law

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The Travelers Indemnity Company appeals the judgment entered after the superior court denied Travelers’ petition for a writ of administrative mandate challenging the Insurance Commissioner’s decision that certain agreements relating to workers’ compensation insurance policies issued to Adir International, LLC were unenforceable. Travelers contended that Adir’s lawsuit in the trial court, which included a request for a declaratory judgment the agreements were void, barred the Commissioner, under the doctrine of exclusive concurrent jurisdiction, from exercising jurisdiction while that lawsuit was pending. Travelers also appealed the post-judgment order granting Adir’s motion for attorney fees, contending attorney fees were not authorized.   The Second Appellate Division affirmed the order and judgment denying Travelers’s petition. The court explained that the exclusive concurrent jurisdiction doctrine does not apply in this context to proceedings pending before the trial court and an administrative agency; and, in any event, it was reasonable and consistent with the primary jurisdiction doctrine for the trial court to defer to the Commissioner’s determination of the validity of the agreement at issue. In addition, because Adir’s administrative claim fell within the agreement’s attorney fee provision, the court affirmed the post-judgment order awarding Adir attorney fees. View "The Travelers Indemnity Co. v. Lara" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a complaint against his former employer, Facility Solutions Group, Inc. (FSG), for disability discrimination and related causes of action under the Fair Employment & Housing Act. The same month Plaintiff filed this class action against FSG for Labor Code violations, which also included a claim under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004.   The trial court in this action denied FSG’s motion, finding unconscionability permeated the arbitration agreement because it had a low to moderate level of procedural unconscionability and at least six substantively unconscionable terms, making severance infeasible. On appeal, FSG contends claim and issue preclusion required the trial court in this action to enforce the arbitration agreement.   The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court agreed with the trial court that the arbitration agreement is permeated with unconscionability, and the court cannot simply sever the offending provisions. Rather, the court would need to rewrite the agreement, creating a new agreement to which the parties never agreed. Moreover, upholding this type of agreement with multiple unconscionable terms would create an incentive for an employer to draft a onesided arbitration agreement in the hope employees would not challenge the unlawful provisions, but if they do, the court would simply modify the agreement to include the bilateral terms the employer should have included in the first place. View "Mills v. Facility Solutions Group" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action for unpaid wages, claiming that Home Depot’s electronic timekeeping system captured each minute worked by employees, but that due to a quarter-hour rounding policy, employees were paid for less time than reflected in the timekeeping system. The trial court granted summary judgment, finding that the rounding policy met the standard articulated in “See’s Candy” as “neutral on its face” and “used in such a manner that it will not result, over a period of time, in failure to compensate employees properly for all the time they have actually worked.”The court of appeal reversed, citing more recent California Supreme Court opinions. Home Depot could and did track the exact time in minutes that an employee worked each shift and those records showed that Plaintiff Camp was not paid for all the time he worked. The court declined to reach the issue of whether employer time rounding practices in other contexts comply with California law, such as when an employer uses a neutral rounding policy due to the inability to capture the actual minutes worked by an employee. The court did not address whether an employer who has the actual ability to capture an employee’s minutes worked is required to do so. View "Camp v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff began working for the defendant Employer in 2006 as a sales representative. In March 2015, she accepted a position as an Area Sales Manager, which she held until June 2017, when she was promoted to the position of Field Sales Director. Later in 2017, as part of a corporate reorganization, Plaintiff's position was eliminated and she was terminated. Plaintiff raised several claims under FEHA and the Equal Pay Act. The trial court granted summary judgment to Employer.The Second Appellate District reversed in part, finding that Plaintiff raise triable issues of fact on her Equal Pay Act claims. The court otherwise affirmed. View "Allen v. Staples, Inc." on Justia Law